Wednesday 31 January 2024


Number 13 of 25
By Jon Sharpe
Cover art by Jerome Podwil
Signet, May 1991

Canyon O’Grady had a long way to go to get his man. The big redheaded U.S. special agent had to catch up with the kingpin of an assassination ring making tracks for Oregon – and the trail cut through Blackfoot land. Canyon was ready to handle both assassins’ bullets and Blackfoot arrows – but not a blonde built for trouble, a pair of greenhorns dead set on sure-fire suicide, and a tangle of treachery and deceit that left Canyon wondering whom to save, whom to kill, and how not to make the dead wrong choice…

After a run of books written by Chester Cunningham, we have a new author writing behind the pseudonym of Jon Sharpe. I’ve seen two different authors suggested as being the writer of this book but haven’t read enough of either to make a guess as to which it could be, Jon Messmann or Will C. Knott. Perhaps neither?

The author’s prose is very readable and the plot doesn’t offer much in the way of surprises or gun action – of course there is some gunplay but not as much as I’d expect from a book carrying the name of Jon Sharpe. The storyline did hold my attention though and introduced some great characters, such as Jake Gettis, bodyguard to Judge Langley who O’Grady has been sent after. 

I found it strange that O’Grady would allow himself to be talked into babysitting some greenhorns, even though they are travelling in the same direction as he, instead of racing ahead to track down a man assumed to be planning to assassinate the President. Somehow, I’d have thought this would have been the special agents’ number one concern and nothing would get in the way of taking down the judge before the President could be killed.

A lot of the book is taken up with O’Grady’s attempts to stop the spread of cholera, which is wreaking havoc among the people of a wagon train that the judge is travelling with. 

The book contains an exciting duel with a Blackfoot warrior who is determined to kill O’Grady and part of the story follows this warrior and his band as they discuss how to wipe the encroaching whites from their country, none of which had much baring on the story other than filling pages. One of these scenes contains some gruesome descriptions of what happens to a couple of prisoners.

There is also a glaring error that will annoy purists. Each of the O’Grady books contain a page at the front that outlines the time and setting the story takes place, which I believe is written by the author, and this one announces that the book is set in 1859. Throughout the story O’Grady uses a Henry rifle, which were not introduced until 1960.

After Cunningham’s entries into the series, this one did feel like a let down if I’m honest. It was still an ok read and I would read more by whoever wrote this book, which is a good job as there is another coming from this author in a couple of books time I believe.

Cover artist Jerome Podwil has once again produced a superb cover, each of the illustrations capturing a scene from the story. He must also have been told about O’Grady’s switch of horses as Canyon is depicted on the animal he rides for much of this tale instead of his usual mount.

Assassin’s Trail is one for the completist, not a book to judge the whole series on. 

Thursday 18 January 2024


By Dusty Richards and Matthew P. Mayo
Pinnacle Books, December 2023

Spring, 1850. After a brutally long winter in the Rockies, Mack Harrigan and his growing family have learned to manage the harsh realities of frontier life. Their new friends, the Shoshone, have taught them the skills they need to survive in this rugged land, from tracking and hunting to fishing and foraging. But the skills they need most are those of the Shoshone warrior, when their camp is attacked by an enemy tribe…. 

Sometimes there is a need for violence. This is one of those times.

The attackers are merciless. They crush the skulls of their victims. Slice off their scalps. And kidnap children as prisoners of war. The Harrigans are horrified by the bloodshed and brutality of the attack – and are determined to fight back alongside the Shoshone. But their mission to save the children will ultimately send the battling Harrigans even deeper into the wild frontier. Farther west than most dare travel. And closer to finding the American dream – if they survive…. 

After only a handful of pages, Matthew P. Mayo plunges the reader into the midst of a vicious battle for survival as the Shoshone camp comes under attack. The Harrigan’s are split up and the author keeps switching between them as they fight frantically to save themselves, each other, and their Shoshone friends. Most of the combat is hand-to-hand, knife-to-knife, club-to-head, and is described graphically. This has to be one of the longest opening battles I’ve read in a western as it continues for around 80 pages, yet never outstays its welcome. Then it’s straight into a desperate chase to track down and rescue the stolen children.

The second part of the book sees the Harrigan’s continue on their journey, heading towards California. As expected, there is plenty of deadly danger waiting to pounce on them. One of my favourite characters from the first book, Bearpaw Jones, makes a very welcome return and it’s through him that one of the Harrigan’s will meet a famous person and get a job offer that is difficult to turn down, but will it be taken? It’s not just humans that pose a threat to the Harrigan’s as a bear has a large part to play and Mayo writes some nail-biting sequences involving this animal. 

The seeds for possible future storylines are also planted, and I can only hope that we don’t have to wait too long before a third book appears.